Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today that Fanor Zúńiga Hurtado, editor in chief and cameraman of the local TV station Más Noticias, has been forced to leave the western region of Buenaventura where he works because of repeated threats since March from leftist guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
"News coverage will suffer in Buenaventura as a result of Zúńiga’s forced departure, especially as he was an independently-minded journalist who stood up to FARC pressure," the press freedom organisation said.
"His departure also exposes the inadequacy if not complete absence of any response from the local authorities aimed at ensuring the safety of journalists in war zones, with the risk that the impunity enjoyed by press freedom predators will become even more widespread," Reporters Without Borders added.
Zúńiga left Buenaventura after receiving threats over an editorial decision not to carry a report about the arrest of a former right-wing paramilitary. Seeing the decision as a sign of bias in favour of the paramilitaries and against the Marxist guerrillas, the FARC threatened to attack him or the studios of Más Noticias.
The Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), the local partner of Reporters Without Borders, said the threats against Zúńiga began on 13 March, when a stranger accosted his wife in the street and said: "Tell your husband to take good care of himself... because he is beginning to give me very good reasons to silence him." This occurred after Más Noticias broadcast footage of a clash between FARC activists and police.
Zúńiga was threatened again in April after refusing to broadcast footage from five videocassettes which the FARC had sent him.
Since the start of the year, five other journalists have been forced to leave the areas where they were working as a result of threats. They are Claudio Gomajoa Buesaquillo of radio La Dorada Estéreo (in the southern department of Putumayo), Antonio Colmenares of La Opinión and Jorge Corredor of La Voz del Norte (in the northeastern city of Cúcuta), Julián Alberto Ochoa Restrepo of the TV station AUPAN (in the northwestern department of Antioquia), and Edwin Alberto Moreno Mojica of local radio station 88.3 Tame FM Stereo (in the northeastern department of Arauca).
Many others have been subjected to constant harassment and have been told to leave.